I have seen on many occasion clients in losing their case in court at different stages of proceedings. Not because there is no merit to their case, but rather because courts and tribunals are giving preference to large companies that employ dozens of people. The court prefers to protect job security of the company’s employees, and this particular preference defeats many claims. This preference is not apparent until the case is appealed. When points of law are raised, the appellant can sometimes receive justice.
How does this situation support a lay person who has used his savings to fight a case he cares about? What if his opponent is bigger, with deeper pockets, and insists on throwing money at the defence to make the problem go away? What safeguard does this lay litigant have? Most cases dissolve into obscurity and pass by unnoticed.
The legal system within the UK has remained demographically unchanged. Those that have the a good primary education move on to better secondary school. Those top-tier university law graduates are the most desirable candidates in the legal field. The legal profession, especially in London, has more job-seekers than employment opportunities; those that succeed within this situation are individuals with the best education. These are the individuals that become judges, and shape the evolution of law within their own image.
The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 1998 came into force in April 1999. They were part of a strategy formulated by Lord Woolf to overhaul the operation of the civil justice system. Prior to the Woolf Inquiry there was a general dissatisfaction with the quality of the civil justice system. The Heilbron Hodge Report described the system as being infused with ‘Dickensian antiquity’ something that was built in the Victorian age and remained ‘unmodernised’. The report further went on to state the procedures under the system were ‘unnecessarily technical’, ‘inflexible’, ‘rule-ridden’, ‘and often incomprehensible to the litigant for whom they are ultimately designed’. Lord Woolf identified the ‘key problems’ facing the old system were that it was ‘too expensive, too slow and too complex’. These problems were interrelated and caused by the uncontrolled nature of the litigation process. Lord Woolf blamed the ‘unrestrained adversarial culture’ of the old system. The reforms have not hugely changed things. We are still left with the same problems.
While the worst off are left without any recourse to law when they encounter problems. We live in a class society. It can be viewed law is a tool for the wealthy and this coincides to some respect with Marxist analysis and Critical legal studies theory. In that, law is a tool for class domination. Engel’s words exemplifies this ‘…law is sacred to the bourgeois, for it is…enacted…for his benefit…the policeman’s truncheon …has for him a …soothing power’ (Engels, F. ‘The condition of the working class in England’ 1842). Proponents of Critical legal studies theory believe that the law exists to support the interests of the party or class that forms it and law is merely a collection of beliefs and prejudices that legitimises the injustices of society. The wealthy and the powerful use the law as an instrument for oppression in order to maintain their place in hierarchy. The basic idea is that the law is political and it is not neutral. All we can do as individuals is do our bit and act fairly with people that need legal assistance. The system may fix itself; nevertheless, this evolution will take time.